By Jeff Wald

The Minnesota Timberwolves made a splash on NBA Draft night, but it wasn’t because they found the next budding star with the No. 7 pick.

Target Center has been largely desolate and a place of only potential not realized for the better part of a decade, not including the Lynx success. The Timberwolves haven’t been a playoff team since the 2003-04 season. That’s 13 years, which is hard to do.

Since that time, there have been bad draft picks and free agent signings that haven’t panned out. Coaches and executives have been hired, and fired. But everything changed in last Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The Timberwolves made a blockbuster trade, but for now, Ricky Rubio is still the point guard. Acquiring Jimmy Butler for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick signaled a shift in the organization. Here’s four reasons why it had to happen, and now.

Need For Consistent Two-Way Player

Trading for Jimmy Butler gives the Timberwolves one of the better two-way players in the NBA. He averaged nearly 24 points per game last year. He’s a physical specimen that can create his own shot, get in the lane and create for teammates. He has a quick release that keeps defenders off balance. And while his jump shot could be better, he makes it enough that it at least has to be defended.

Butler is also often asked to guard the opponent’s best offensive player. He’s been an All-Star and an All-Defensive Team pick three times. He genuinely wants to play defense in a league where players care mostly about getting their fair share of shots.

Andrew Wiggins can score, but his defense still needs a lot of work. Ricky Rubio can pass and defend, but he’s not an offensive threat in late-game key situations. Karl-Anthony Towns is the closest thing they had to a two-way player before Butler, but he’s only in his third year in the league.

ricky rubio 4 Reasons The Timberwolves Had To Trade For Jimmy Butler

Ricky Rubio (credit: CBS)

Timberwolves Not Done Shaking Up Roster

Trading for Jimmy Butler is arguably the biggest move the Timberwolves have made since trading Kevin Garnett. And all signs point to the Wolves not being done shaking up the roster. Free agency starts next week, and there is still a very real possibility Rubio could be part of a deal to acquire a veteran guard who is a more capable scorer. Jordan Hill was waived on Monday, giving the Timberwolves about $4 million more to worth with in their salary cap.

Minnesota still needs a guard that can shoot from the perimeter and a big man who can help Towns defend at the rim. It will be interesting to see what moves are made and who Tom Thibodeau decide to bring in and move on from. It will tell a lot about where the future of the franchise is headed.

Fans Craving Playoff-Caliber Team

The Timberwolves front office sent a message to its fans by trading for Butler: It’s not OK anymore to not be competitive and not be involved in the postseason. The trade gives the Timberwolves three premiere players in Butler, Towns and Wiggins, and they aren’t done yet. Fans have responded by flooding the ticket office and the phone lines, wanting to secure their spot at the Target Center for the upcoming season.

When the Timberwolves are consistently good, the Target Center is one of the best venues in Minnesota sports. There’s a buzz in the Twin Cities now, with one of the top players in the NBA soon to don a Timberwolves jersey. Fans are ready for a team to not only compete for a playoff spot, but do so consistently.

New Leader That Knows Thibodeau

One of the biggest issues the Timberwolves had last year was a lack of continuity. That can happen when a new coach comes in with new principles. Tom Thibodeau is known for his defensive ability as a coach, but the next step is to relay that message and those principles to the players. The Timberwolves had several obvious lapses and gave up far too many easy baskets last year, largely due to a lack of communication on the floor. It was especially frustrating when they couldn’t get defensive stops late in close games.

Bringing in Butler should be a big help with all of that. He’s got several years of experience with Thibodeau, and knows his principles. He knows where defenders should be during a given possession, and won’t be afraid to tell somebody if they’re in the wrong spot. Most importantly, Butler embraces playing defense and won’t be afraid to tell somebody if they’re slacking off.

The trade to acquire Butler was a big step to advancing the Timberwolves organization on the court. The front office likely isn’t done making moves and adjusting the roster, but now it’s up to the players to put their time and get the work done. Fans are tired of waiting, they’re ready for relevant basketball in February and March at the Target Center.


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